Ranking Brazil's 10 Greatest World Cup Stars of All Time
The Brazilian national team is almost a synonym with world-class footballers.
In every World Cup roster of the Verde Amarela, it is virtually impossible not to find at least two or three of the best players of its time. It is almost a certainty to say that if you shine with Brazil, you are a world star.
Through its record five world championships and being the only team never to miss a World Cup, Brazil's history is full of legendary players. In which other national team ranking will you have to leave out Leonidas, Zizinho, Djalma Santos, Nilton Santos, Didi, Zagallo, Amarildo, Jairzinho, Tostao, Gerson, Falcao, Bebeto, Cafu, Roberto Carlos, Ronaldinho and many others?
All of the above mentioned players paid a deserving tribute to the Brazilian signature style of play, the Jogo Bonito (playing beautifully). However, they still fell short of the Canarinha football gods.
Here are Brazil's 10 greatest World Cup stars of all time.
Socrates was a key member of the most spectacular and remembered Brazilian team that didn't win the World Cup, the 1982 Brazil.
He played along with Zico and Falcao, forming one of the most respected midfields of the time.
Dr Socrates, as he was also called due to his medical degree, was an elegant player with the typical Brazilian magic impregnated in his feet. He was also a leader and therefore was the captain of the Verde Amarela during two World Cups.
He scored a couple of goals in the two World Cups he played. In the Mexico '86 quarterfinals game against France, he missed in the decisive penalty shootout series. It was definitely a sad last memory for a player who shone with the Canarinha.
Roberto Rivellino was a world-class midfielder who displayed his magic with Brazil through the 1970s.
He was a member of the commonly regarded as the best Brazil of all time, the Mexico '70 World Cup squad. In Mexico, Rivellino was deployed to play on the left, where he managed to score three goals on Brazil’s road to its third world championship in 12 years.
He became the successor of Pele in the sense of taking the responsibility of wearing the No. 10 jersey.
Rivellino led Brazil in the following World Cups of the decade, where they finished in the top four places, but by then the standards of Brazil were higher.
Rivellino's last World Cup was in Argentina '78, where he had the chance to share the field with the next Brazil No. 10: Zico.
8. Carlos Alberto
The only defender on this list was the captain of the Brazilian dream team of 1970.
Carlos Alberto played as a full-back who had the capacity to add himself as another offensive weapon for Pele and co.
Carlos Alberto scored the beautiful fourth goal in the 4-1 victory over Italy in the final; the buildup of the play and Pele’s assist culminated with Carlos striking a thunderbolt to the far post. The anecdote recalls that play as "the president’s goal" as the Brazilian president had supposedly predicted a 4-1 final result.
In a team full of offensive star players who had the entire spotlight, Carlos Alberto managed to make a space for himself in the Brazilian Olympus
As the team captain, he had the privilege of being the first one lifting the Jules Rimet trophy for Brazil's third championship.
His attacking interventions on the wing set the example for future full-backs who shone with the Verde Amarela such as Eder, Cafu and Roberto Carlos.
Just as Pele had great players on his back who helped him win Brazil's first three cups, Ronaldo had his own—but no one as important as Rivaldo.
The fine left footed midfielder played as a modern No. 10 in France '98 where Brazil reached the final. Rivaldo played behind the Ronaldo-Bebeto duo, scoring three times and also forming an important partnership with Ronaldo.
During Korea-Japan 2002, Rivaldo formed a trident with Ronaldo and Ronaldinho. Ronaldo was on top of the triangle, leaving Ronaldinho and Rivaldo switching between being the playmaker and the second forward.
Rivaldo scored a goal in every game up to the quarterfinals and was vital on both of Ronaldo's goals in the final against Germany.
Reaching the final in France and conquering the pentacampeonato (fifth championship) in Asia wouldn't have been possible without the great Rivaldo.
Vava isn't among the list of Brazil's top capped players or even goalscorers, but he still left his mark on the national team.
As a centre-forward, his main objective was to score, and that's exactly what he did, especially in the games that matter the most: the World Cup ones.
The Brazilians had the pleasure of enjoying Vava's goals in the 1958 and 1962 World Cup campaigns that ended with the first two championships for the Selecao.
In Sweden he scored a brace against the Soviet Union in the group stages, then scored in the semifinal and ended the tournament with a brace in the final.
In Chile '62, after Pele's injury, Vava did not disappoint and, along with Garrincha and Amarildo, helped Brazil to retain the title with his goals in the crucial knockout stage matches.
Vava scored four goals, including a brace in the semifinal and one more in the final. He also finished the tournament on the top of the goalscorers' list along with five other players.
At that point, Vava was the all-time leading scorer for Brazil in World Cup games and was also the only Brazilian who had scored a total of three goals in world finals. As a matter of fact, Vava still owns the record of goals for the Verde Amarela in world finals, but now he shares it with Pele.
It had been 24 years since Brazil's last World Cup victory—and then Romario came in to write his name with golden letters in the Scratch du Oro's history.
After being part of the squad's early exit in Italy '90, Romario embraced USA '94 as his World Cup. He scored five times on North American soil and also scored from the spot in the penalty shootout against Italy in the final.
His exclusion for different motives of the Brazil's World Cup squads for France '98 and Korea-Japan 2002 caused outrage in many fans, and had Romario in tears prior to the French World Cup. Those circumstances will forever let us wondering what could have been if he had been able to play with Ronaldo on those cups.
Romario was a lethal finisher in the box; he always seemed to find the way to score. During his time in the national team, he also formed two of the most remembered attacking partnerships in recent times.
First, he partnered with Bebeto during the 1994 World Cup and subsequently with Ronaldo—often referred to as the Ro-Ro duo. Romario lived great times with Brazil.
It was almost as if Pele had never left when Zico wore the No. 10 jersey of the Selecao; it was not for nothing that they called him the "White Pele."
Zico was a magnificent player, who combined his panoramic vision of the game and his terrific skill to become one of the best passers in the history of football.
However, if he had to be the one finishing the plays, he was just as efficient "passing" the ball into the net. The carioca playmaker was also deadly on free-kicks.
He led one of the most talented and spectacular Brazil teams of all time in the late 1970s and through half of the 1980s, in which he had the chance to play in three World Cups.
During Spain '82, Zico scored four goals as Brazil dominated the tournament, but they couldn't crown their performances with the world title, a burden that Zico and his generation will have to carry forever.
During his last World Cup in Mexico '86, he was limited due to a severe injury a year earlier and showed the world that he was human and so was his technique.
Zico missed a crucial penalty kick against France in the final minutes of the quarterfinals match, and Brazil was eliminated later via a penalty shootout.
At his prime, he was simply unstoppable. He became one of the most lethal strikers in the world, able to beat both defenders and goalies with pure skill moves or with lightning speed.
At the age of 17, Ronaldo became a World Cup champion in USA '94, even though he didn't play a single minute during the tournament.
O Fenomeno came into France '98 as the current winner of the Ballon d'Or (Golden Ball) and Brazil's hope of retaining the title relied on him.
The dream ended dramatically after he convulsed hours before the final and France beat Brazil 3-0.
Four years later, Ronaldo came back like the phoenix rising from the ashes and won the World Cup for the second time in his career.
While doing so, he managed to score eight goals that gained him the Golden Boot of the tournament and became the first player to score more than six goals in a World Cup since 1974.
Germany '06 was his last appearance in FIFA's premier tournament, and despite the critics' allegations that he was out of shape and even fat, he still scored three goals.
Ronaldo is currently the World Cup all-time top goalscorer with 15 goals and is second on Brazil's all-time leading scorers' list.
Some of the Brazilian people who had the joy of seeing his masterful performances argue that Garrincha is the greatest of all time ever to wear the national team jersey, even though that claim might be biased due to his status as a people’s player.
Manuel Francisco dos Santos was born with one leg longer than the other, but that did not stop him becoming a football legend.
Garrincha, along with Pele, started the revolution of Brazilian football in the 1958 World Cup in Sweden. The Europeans were astonished by the dribbling capacity of the small winger, who went past defenders as if playing against amateurs.
The heroic conquering of the World Cup on European soil by a non-European team is still unmatched.
In Chile '62, when Pele got injured in the group stage of the tournament, Garrincha took over and led Brazil to back-to-back world championships. Mane scored braces in the quarterfinal and the semifinal games against England and Chile respectively. He ended as the top goalscorer and was the best player of the cup.
He still played in England '66, scoring a goal in the 2-0 victory over Bulgaria, but couldn't save Brazil from group-stage elimination.
That didn't really matter as Garrincha had already left an eternal legacy.
They call him O Rei (the King) and he is arguably the best player of all times.
Edson Arantes do Nascimento is that legendary footballer whom most fans today didn't have the chance to see with their own eyes, but older generations made sure they knew about him: the one and only Pele.
At an age when many dream of their professional debut, Pele was already delighting with his magic on the pitches of Sweden back in the 1958 World Cup.
The Brazilian teenager scored six times during his first World Cup, including a hat-trick in the semifinal and a brace in the final. He was fundamental in the South American country's first world championship—and he was only 17!
In 1970, Pele led the famous star-studded Brazil to its third world championship. During the tournament, O Rei managed to score four goals, assist his teammates and leave a bunch of memorable plays that didn't even end on the back of the net.
Pele lived the Golden Age of Brazil from start to end; in a way he was the Golden Age. He is also the only player of Brazil, and in the world, who has won three World Cups.